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Academy F-15E Strike Eagle

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/72 scale plastic model aircraft kit
The latest in Academy’s line of 1/72 scale press-fit aircraft kits is the ground-attack version of the vaunted Eagle — the F-15E. Unlike previous kits with this technology, this one is labeled “Modelers Edition” on the box, not “MCP” (MultiColored Plastic), and it doesn’t include optional sticker markings.

The Strike Eagle is molded in dark gray plastic, very close to the gunship gray found on the actual aircraft. The canopy, HUD glass, and Sniper pod lens are molded clear. This release comes with outstanding Cartograf decals for three aircraft from the 4th Fighter Wing.

The parts show excellent subtle recessed panel lines and rivets.

Features include full-length intake trunks, a well-detailed cockpit, separate speed brake, a pair of drop tanks, two each AIM-9X Sidewinders and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, and 14 GBU-38/B 500-pound JDAMs. An AN/AAQ-33 Sniper pod is provided in addition to the AN/AAQ-13 and AN/AAQ-14 LANTIRN pods that are used for laser-weapon guidance. Unused GE F-110 engine parts indicate a forthcoming kit will include Saudi and Singaporean Strike Eagles.

Brilliant engineering and excellent fits highlight the kit. The instructions don’t mention it, but it’s clear that this kit is designed to be assembled without cement. Slightly tapered pins fit tightly into holes, and, once you’ve pressed the assemblies together, most seams disappear.

The upper fuselage half is molded with the wings, and the bottom fuselage half with the conformal fuel tanks. The forward fuselage is molded in left and right halves, trapping the cockpit and nose-gear well; then the forward fuselage is trapped by the main fuselage assembly. The sections of the rear fuselage around the engines are molded separately, so they can be painted natural metal before adding them to the main assembly.

That design and the monochromatic camouflage make for a quick build. I painted the aft fuselage, afterburners, landing gear and bays, cockpit, weapons, and canopy frames. The rest of the gunship-gray plastic received a coat of Pledge FloorCare Multi-Surface Finish in preparation for decals.

I assembled everything after painting, and it took just a couple of hours to press it all together. I used liquid cement to close seams along the booms for the tails.
The only downsides to the press-fit engineering are the single-piece canopy with no mechanism to pose it open, and the rather solid-looking representation of the exposed afterburner push rods and the landing gear’s oleo scissors.

The instructions are clear, and the assembly sequence should be followed carefully. Beware of a couple of numbering slipups: The parts diagrams of sprues A and B lack part numbers, and the decal diagrams misidentify the wing badge on the right side of the fuselage as No. 3 — it is No. 2 on the decal sheet. Also, stencil s6 on the left side of the nose is shown but not labeled.

The decal markings were perfectly printed and went on with no problems. But there are well over 100 individual stencils scattered over the airframe, pylons, and weapons. Decaling took about eight hours — twice what I spent painting and assembling the model! I applied a coat of Testors Acryl clear flat after the decals dried.

Final assembly involved pressing the bomb pylons to the conformal fuel tanks and then the bombs to the pylons. Once the weapons are pressed tightly into place, you can’t see any of the pins or the holes. The canopy fits tightly over the cockpit. I closed the speed brake, but it can be posed open.
The small compromises of Academy’s Strike Eagle are overshadowed by the overall appearance and ease of assembly. A model that looks this good in less than 20 hours? I’ll take it!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the October 2017 issue.
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